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DENR airs stand on proposed merger with DA

MANILA, June 27 — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has assured it would respect congressional action on a solon's proposal to merge the agency and Department of Agriculture (DA) but will present at the proper time and venue evidence showing advantages of maintaining the former's organizational structure.

"We'll always defer to Congress but will present available evidence on the matter," DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said.

He said a 10-year United Nations (UN) study shows the best way to promote sustainable development is when environmental protection is combined with government's arm for resource use.

This is how DENR is structured, he noted.

"Before a program is even implemented, therefore, mitigating measures are already incorporated into this," he added, citing discussions during the UN Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED) or The Earth Summit.

In June 1992, Brazil hosted UNCED which covered the environment and sustainable development.

Reports this month said Western Samar Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento is pushing for a DENR-DA merger to end what he sees as duplication in certain functions of both agencies.

He reportedly believes the merger will bring forth a cohesive and collaborative work plan for agriculture and the environment so there can be no more finger-pointing during untoward incidents like poaching and fish kills.

The proposed merger will also help reduce the country's "bloated bureaucracy," reports cited Sarmiento as reasoning.

DENR's mandate is to stop environmental abuses, reverse ecological degradation patterns, conserve Philippine natural resources and ensure these are sustainably harvested for the public's long-term benefit.

The DA is tasked with mainly promoting agricultural development nationwide.

Paje reported that several Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries used DENR as the model when these formed respective environment and natural resources ministries.

"The ASEAN nations very carefully studied DENR," he said.

He noted ASEAN countries Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam previously bundled up science, technology and the environment into respective ministries.

Upon studying DENR, however, he said such countries passed respective laws creating ministries of environment and natural resources for each.

"Those countries believe the best [institutional] structure to really promote sustainable development is DENR's – how can we question that?" he noted.

In January 1917, the Philippine Commission created Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) through Act 2666.

Through the succeeding decades, government re-structured DANR several times until former president Corazon Aquino issued in June 1987 Executive Order 192 which re-organized the agency into DENR.(PNA)

LDV/CJT/mec

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